Friday, November 9, 2012

Race, Ethnicity, and the Election: Historical Context

A good deal of commentary has focused on the election's demographic gap:  Republicans carried the white vote while Democrats carried the black and Hispanic vote.  But note one very important bit of context:  the same thing has been true of every election in the past 40 years.

The difference this year is that Romney's share of the Hispanic vote is lower than McCain's and that the Hispanic share of the voting population is growing. But the growth has been gradual, not abruptHispanics made up 10% of the electorate in 2012, compared with 9% in 2008 and 8% in 2004.  The Hispanic vote helped the president, but was not the decisive element.

Some point to the 2004 election to suggest that the GOP has seen a dramatic dropoff in Hispanic support.  But careful analysis suggests that 2004 exit polls overstated Bush's showing among Hispanic voters.

Here are the exit poll figures.  The 1976 poll lacks data for Hispanics.  The 1992 and 1996 figures for both parties are lower because of the Perot vote.

1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012
White R 67 52 56 64 59 40 46 54 58 55 59
D 31 47 36 35 40 39 43 42 41 43 39
Black 18 16 11 9 12 10 12 8 11 4 6
D 82 83 85 90 86 83 84 90 88 95 93
Hispanic 35 35 37 30 25 21 35 44 31 27
D 63 56 62 69 61 72 62 53 67 71


Sources:  New York Times and CNN